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University of Freiburg awards prizes for research, teaching, doctoral supervision, community service and start-up ideas

Junior researcher awards, the ‘Pfiffikus’ Award for Start-up Ideas, the University Teaching Award, the special award for an exceptional student initiative and the Bertha Ottenstein Prize

Freiburg, Oct 18, 2023

Prizes for outstanding performance in research and teaching, social initiatives and start-up ideas have been awarded by the University of Freiburg: junior researcher awards, the ‘Pfiffikus’ Award for Start-up Ideas, the University Teaching Award, the special award for an exceptional student initiative, the Bertha Ottenstein Prize and for the first time the prize for excellent doctoral supervision. The winners were honoured by Rector Prof. Dr. Kerstin Krieglstein at the ceremony to celebrate the start of the academic year.

Junior researcher awards

Each year, the University of Freiburg awards prizes for outstanding research work. This year, prizes went to 61 early-career scientists, who were proposed by their faculties. Since 1989, private individuals and university institutions have made a total of 2.9 million euros available for junior researcher awards.

Freiburg prizes for the promotion of young talents (in German only)

 ‘Pfiffikus’ Award for Start-up Ideas

The junior researcher awards include the ‘Pfiffikus’ award for start-up ideas, which is provided by the Rhenania Education Foundation in Freiburg and funded by the Stifterverband. The ‘Pfiffikus’ is awarded by three University of Freiburg faculties for marketable business ideas in the fields of economic and behavioural science, medicine and technology which have been developed by students and PhD students. In 2023 the first prize, which is endowed with 2,000 euros, was received by the start-up PriorLabs, the second, which has a cash prize of 1,000 euros was received by Intellexus, and a special prize worth 500 euros went to the social start-up Gapless. All the winners of the ‘Pfiffikus’ prize have the option of being coached by alumni and the University of Freiburg’s start-up office.

PriorLabs: AI without barriers
The researchers from PriorLabs simplify the use of AI for data analysis. The idea: without needing any technical expertise, users can formulate their objectives, set the context of the problem and prior knowledge – and to do this they interact with AI algorithms using speech. In this way, PriorLabs does away with the existing need for AI expertise to carry out data analysis, and makes precise forecasting available to all.

Intellexus: More sustainable batteries
The start-up Intellexus wants to make batteries more sustainable. To extend battery life, the researchers are developing a battery management system, which can for example use AI algorithms to control how energy from solar cells is stored in batteries.

Gapless: Integration using skateboards
A special prize went to the social start-up Gapless, whose founders teach children and adolescents with a refugee background to skateboard. They start by going in to the hostels and later as the youngsters’ skills develop take them to Freiburg’s skate park. The aim is to encourage the refugees to participate in society.

University Teaching Award and special award for an exceptional student initiative

In 2023, the University of Freiburg has presented the University Teaching Award for excellent support to Dr. Jakob Schemmel from the Department of Political Science and Philosophy of Law, and Dr. Susanne Knies from the Department of Mathematics. Each of these awards includes a cash prize of 5,000 euros. The special award for an exceptional student initiative, which is endowed with 500 euros for each winner, went to both Sabine Brandenburg and the students of the Islamic studies departmental student committee.

Dr. Jakob Schemmel: European Law consolidation course
Jakob Schemmel is now in his fifth year of teaching the European Law consolidation course. This one week intensive course is part of the exam preparation programme of the Faculty of Law and includes a total of 40 teaching hours. The prize honours Schemmel’s approach to making the complex subject more accessible using various teaching methods. For instance, the students work on real-life legal cases in small groups and have plenty of time for questions and discussions.

Dr. Susanne Knies: Online exercises for the Mathematics induction course
Susanne Knies is responsible for among other things the organisation and realisation of introduction and supplementary courses, for which she has developed online teaching and study material that can be used by the students to get direct feedback on their knowledge and identify mistakes. Students can improve their results in a fun way and get individual tips on finding the correct solution. The materials are also used to supplement other classes, and offer a model for other independent learning modules. With this teaching prize, the university is also honouring Knies’ efforts to further the development of mathematical events for scientists and public events offered by the department.

Sabine Brandenburg: Guided tours of the Uniseum for people with visual impairments
Sabine Brandenburg, a student member of staff at the Uniseum Freiburg, has developed an educational museum offering for people with visual impairments. This involved her consulting experts from the field of inclusive museology as well as potential users. Through touch and precise descriptions, people with visual impairments can experience the museum on guided tours which are now a permanent offer at the Uniseum. Brandenburg provides the guided tours herself, and is also training the Uniseum team.

Islamic studies departmental student committee: Sociopolitical engagement and involvement for students
The students in the Islamic studies departmental student committee are highly sociopolitically engaged. On the subject of the feminist movement in Iran, they have held university information events, a panel discussion at Freiburg Theatre and are currently planning an exhibition in the University Library. In February, together with the Department of Oriental Studies, they organised a fundraising campaign for the victims of the earthquakes in Syria and Turkey. The student committee is dedicated to providing students of Islamic studies with a range of social activities and helps to provide them with information on day-to-day studies.

Bertha Ottenstein Prize

Each year, the University of Freiburg awards the Bertha Ottenstein Prize, which is endowed with 5,000 euros. The prize recognises special initiatives in relation to the advancement of women and gender equality work, as well as outstanding scientific efforts in gender and diversity research. This year, with each receiving 2,500 euros, the award was split equally between Hanna M. Micklitz and Paula Hartleitner for their course on gender-sensitive psychotherapy, and the project DETECT – for a non-discriminatory medical education, represented by Dr. Petra Young.

Hanna M. Micklitz and Paula Hartleitner: Gender-sensitive psychotherapy course
The Bertha Ottenstein Prize honours the gender-sensitive psychotherapy course, which fills a gap in the education of trainee psychotherapists, by helping them to acquire gender-related skills. The course raises awareness of the social responsibility of psychology and psychotherapy, especially in relation to providing trans-sensitive health care. And the course in itself is exemplary of how gender and diversity related aspects are anchored in the university education of psychologists and psychotherapists, and how hetero-normative teaching content and mindsets can be overcome.

DETECT – for a non-discriminatory medical education
DETECT is an Internet platform where medical trainees who have suffered discrimination can write about their experiences anonymously. It also offers relevant information and contact addresses. So far, over 200 contributions have been published on the platform. Besides regional networking, the project has already given rise to other initiatives, such as outlines for courses on the subjects of raising awareness of discrimination and on civil courage. In this way, DETECT is raising the visibility of the problem, promoting awareness among stakeholders and giving them the tools to be able to act against discrimination in future.

Prize for excellent doctoral supervision

This year, the University of Freiburg is awarding the prize for excellent doctoral supervision for the first time. The two winners are Prof. Dr. Racha Kirakosian, Professor of German Medieval Studies, and Prof. Dr. Frank Hutter, Professor of Machine Learning. The prize, which is endowed with 2,000 euros, is the university’s way of honouring extraordinary commitment to providing support for doctoral candidates. In the spring of 2023, the International Graduate Academy (IGA) called on doctoral candidates to nominate doctoral supervisors for the award. A total of 71 nominations were received. Each nomination required at least two doctoral candidates to set out how their supervisors were providing them with excellent support. A panel chaired by the Vice Rector for Research and Innovation, Prof. Dr. Stefan Rensing, selected the winners from the anonymised proposals. The process involved representatives of the professorate, postdocs, doctoral candidates, employees of the IGA and of the Department of Equality, Diversity and Academic Personnel Development.

Alumni Prize for community service

The Alumni Freiburg e.V. association is this year awarding the annual Alumni Prize for community service, which is endowed with 2,000 euros, for the twelfth time. The association hopes that the prize will encourage and help students to contribute to society and their university while they are studying. This year, Alumni Freiburg is awarding the prize to Elisabeth Reiter for the organisation of a self-help group for people affected by domestic violence and a group for medical students who have children.

Self-help group for people affected by domestic violence
In 2020, Elisabeth Reiter set up a self-help group for people affected by domestic violence, which meets monthly. The group allows the exchange of experiences in a safe space, and helps its members not to feel alone. Reiter plans the monthly meetings, prepares materials for them, organises talks and also guides members towards specialist contacts for domestic violence.

‘Studying medicine with a child’ group
Reiter also founded the ‘Studying medicine with a child’ group in 2018. Medical students who have children have since then networked using WhatsApp or at face-to-face meetings to exchange information and support one another.


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